Climate change and water

Both floods and droughts have an impact on human health so any increase in these as a result of climate change will lead to increased health problems. Amongst the predicted possible effects of climate change on water quality are the following:

  • Extreme rainfall events may lead to higher numbers of bacteria and pathogens in surface waters
  • In drought areas there may be an increased likelihood of contaminated surface water reaching groundwater through the opening of short circuits as a result of a lowered water table.
  • Increased temperature and nutrient concentrations in surface water could lead to cyanobacterial blooms occurring more often.
  • Higher temperatures may affect the efficiency of chemical coagulation which could lead to the decreased removal of microbes by subsequent clarification and filtration.

Information sources

UK Government reports

 Health Effects of Climate Change in the UK 2012
Current evidence, recommendations and research gaps
Sotiris Vardoulakis and Clare Heaviside (Editors)
Health Protection Agency, September 2012
Chapter 7. Health effects of flooding, and adaptation to climate change

Health Effects of Climate Change in the UK - An expert review for comment
Report of the Expert Group on Climate Change and Health in the UK
Dept of Health. 2001. 290 pp

Chapter 4.4. Water-borne diseases and climate change. pp 139-154
Chapter 4.5. Coastal flooding and climate change. pp 177-218

Health Effects of Climate Change in the UK 2008 – an update of the Department of Health Report 2001/2002.
Dept of Health. 2008. 113 pp

Chapter 2. Flooding, windstorms and climate change. pp 23-33
Chapter 5. Water and disease and climate change pp 76-80

Foresight study on flood and coastal defence 2004 

Examines the future risk of flooding and coastal erosion, in terms of parameters including probability of flooding, number of people at high risk, expected annual damage and social flood vulnerability.

Marine Climate Change Impacts Programme 

The United Kingdom Marine Climate Change Impacts Partnership (MCCIP) brings together scientists, government, its agencies and NGOs to provide co-ordinated advice on climate change impacts around the coast and in the seas.

International reports

Protecting health in Europe from climate change
Edited by Bettina Menne, Franklin Apfel, Sari Kovats and Francesca Racioppi
WHO Europe 2008, 51 pages
ISBN 978 92 890 7187 1

Reducing health effects from floods. pp 18-19
Reducing the risk of waterborne diseases. pp 24-25

A Human Health Perspective On Climate Change
A report outlining the research needs on the human health effects of climate change
NIEHS 2010

Waterborne diseases. pp 51-55

When Every Drop Counts: Protecting Public Health During Drought Conditions—A Guide for Public Health Professionals.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). August 2010

NGO reports

Climate Change and its Health Implications
A summary report for environmental health practitioners on the health implications of climate change
CIEH. November 2008

Chapter 5.3. Water related disease and climate change
Chapter 6. Heath impact from floods
Chapter 9.2. Long-term and emergency planning for floods and related storms
Chapter 9.3 Health and hygiene advice after floods
Chapter 9.5 Water treatment and management/sanitation

Saline intrusion, groundwater and coastal habitat: impacts of sea level rise
A report by Debbie Putt, NERC Intern to the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, Jan-Apr 2009

Adapting institutions to climate change
Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution. 180 pp. 2009


The Health Practitioners Guide to Climate Change
Ed. Jenny Griffiths; Mala Rao; Fiona Adshead; Allison Thorpe
Publisher: Earthscan. 2009. 380 pp. ISBN: 978-1-84407-729-8

Miscellaneous references throughout the book

Link to Earthscan publications via Routledge  

Journal Articles

Bathing water disease risk may increase under climate change
EU Science for Environment Policy Bulletin, 28 May 2014. Issue 374

no advert
print Print | email Email